The 10 Ways Bush Screwed New York

A presidential potpourri of cuts, blunders, stonewalls, deceptions, and distractions

New Yorkers cannot forget that the most infamous of the PDBs contained three incredible warnings: a WTC reprise of '93, hijackings, and Al Qaeda surveillance of buildings here. No counter-terrorism group or National Security Council meetings were "held to discuss the possible threat of a strike in the U.S. as a result of this report," the commission said, while the longest presidential vacation in modern history dragged on.

4 Iraq plus tax cuts adds up to a deficit that will force a second-term squeeze on social programs vital to NYC. Bush didn't cause the recession. He didn't cause 9-11. Any president would've had to take on the added costs of homeland security and Afghanistan, maybe even spent more on them. But $75 billion here and $87 billion there, and Iraq becomes a pretty big bill, with no end to installment payments in sight. Deficits of a half-trillion might, in a real world, slow the march to making $4 trillion in high-end tax cuts permanent, but a second Bush term will almost undoubtedly include even more cuts. He's already talking about converting us from an income- to consumption-tax system, with every form of investment income insulated from taxation.

illustration by Stanley Martucci & Cheryl Greisbach

There's only so much blood the White House can drain out of health and social programs, but that promises to be a focus of Term II. Shock & awe for Head Start. "You'll see huge cutbacks in these programs in the budget that's released in early 2005," predicts Brookings Institution economist Bell Sawhill. This anticipated calamity appears on this Voice list of current, as opposed to future, Bush assaults on the city because the fiscal madness of the last three years leads inexorably to it. With 75 percent of budget deterioration due to lower revenues, not higher spending, and the Bush Garden party exploding in celebration next week whenever tax cuts are mentioned, have no doubt that every federal dollar of social responsibility is up for grabs.

5 Bush did OK on the $20 billion, but he's still shortchanging us on the edges of the minimal pledge he made to a city whose economy took an $80 billion hit. For example, when Florida collects hurricane aid, it will likely also get another 15 percent of whatever FEMA spends on emergency assistance for "hazard mitigation"—funding that federal law requires to help a disaster-hit locality figure out ways to avoid such a crushing blow again. NY only got 5 percent. Even George Pataki, who's as likely to publicly criticize Bush as he is Libby, has complained about that one.

The White House explanation is that the city got all its emergency costs reimbursed—a higher percentage than usual—so it's receiving less mitigation aid. But Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who's been a tiger in the House on every dollar due New York, cites chapter and verse of other localities that have collected full emergency and mitigation funding. Fifteen percent mitigation would add $840 million to our coffers.

Bush is hardly the only one responsible for another missing $3 billion. Instead of demanding the $20 billion in hard cash the minute Bush agreed in the White House meeting with our senators, Giuliani, Pataki, and the senators decided they wanted billions of it in the form of tax incentives for downtown projects that have never materialized. It's a synchronized bipartisan mess that includes the White House. But this screwup, combined with Pataki's snail-like rebuilding pace on the site, has given Bush nothing to showcase here. He's planning no GZ extravaganza because it still looks like a moonscape.

6 Senator Schumer says NY doesn't expect a share of Idaho's farm subsidies, so why does Idaho take a chunk of NY's security subsidies? It's a question no speaker at the GOP convention is likely to address even though a national Democrat like Hillary Clinton raised it from the DNC podium. Iowa is spending bioterrorism funding on corn feed. Maybe that state should, because with NY ranked 35th in anti-terrorism per capita funding and 50th in bioterrorism, it's all becoming pork anyway. When security dollars are allocated, the red states should be the ones that have shed or are likely to shed blood.

This is not just a Tom DeLay problem. The White House has been almost as deplorable as Congress. In fact, a 2004 Bloomberg report says that a key funding source, the Urban Area Security Initiative, which was originally targeted at the seven most vulnerable cities, is now dispersed among 80 cities and that the White House is preparing an October surprise. The president will name more cities eligible for this limited pot—with NYC's total already sliced from $281 million to $47 million and Bloomberg saying there is "no public formula detailing the factors" Bush will use in making his pre-election grants. The mayor who brought the convention here says that he fought hard "to get money allocated for high-threat areas, but the funds are being diluted as cities are added."

7 What could be worse than lying to GZ workers and residents about the air they were breathing? The original EPA draft of a September 13, 2001, press release, for example, said that the agency considered even the low levels of asbestos that surfaced in their GZ tests "hazardous in this situation." The final White House version of the release simply scratched out the phrase. And when a September 16 EPA draft warned of "higher levels of asbestos," the White House changed it to the hot-air hoax that "ambient air quality meets standards and is not a cause for public concern." The EPA chief of staff conceded in an interview with the agency's inspector general that the "desire to reopen Wall Street" factored into the releases, saying she did not feel the releases were her own.

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